Part 12 out of 19
that time, whenever creditors were more than ordinarily importunate,
when Slow and Bideawhile could do nothing for him, he would refer to
that fatal measure as though it was the cause of every embarrassment
which had harassed him. How could she tell parents such as these that
she was engaged to marry a man who at the present moment went to
synagogue on a Saturday and carried out every other filthy abomination
common to the despised people?
That Mr Brehgert was a fat, greasy man of fifty, conspicuous for
hair-dye, was in itself distressing:--but this minor distress was
swallowed up in the greater. Miss Longestaffe was a girl possessing
considerable discrimination, and was able to weigh her own possessions
in just scales. She had begun life with very high aspirations,
believing in her own beauty, in her mother's fashion, and her father's
fortune. She had now been ten years at the work, and was aware that
she had always flown a little too high for her mark at the time. At
nineteen and twenty and twenty-one she had thought that all the world
was before her. With her commanding figure, regular long features, and
bright complexion, she had regarded herself as one of the beauties of
the day, and had considered herself entitled to demand wealth and a
Coronet. At twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four any young peer,
or peer's eldest son, with a house in town and in the country, might
have sufficed. Twenty-five and six had been the years for baronets and
squires; and even a leading fashionable lawyer or two had been marked
by her as sufficient since that time. But now she was aware that
hitherto she had always fixed her price a little too high. On three
things she was still determined,--that she would not be poor, that she
would not be banished from London, and that she would not be an old
maid. 'Mamma,' she had often said, 'there's one thing certain. I shall
never do to be poor.' Lady Pomona had expressed full concurrence with
her child. 'And, mamma, to do as Sophia is doing would kill me. Fancy
having to live at Toodlam all one's life with George Whitstable!' Lady
Pomona had agreed to this also, though she thought that Toodlam Hall
was a very nice home for her elder daughter. 'And, mamma, I should
drive you and papa mad if I were to stay at home always. And what
would become of me when Dolly was master of everything?' Lady Pomona,
looking forward as well as she was able to the time at which she
should herself have departed, when her dower and dower-house would
have reverted to Dolly, acknowledged that Georgiana should provide
herself with a home of her own before that time.
And how was this to be done? Lovers with all the glories and all the
graces are supposed to be plentiful as blackberries by girls of
nineteen, but have been proved to be rare hothouse fruits by girls of
twenty-nine. Brehgert was rich, would live in London, and would be a
husband. People did such odd things now and 'lived them down,' that
she could see no reason why she should not do this and live this down.
Courage was the one thing necessary,--that and perseverance. She must
teach herself to talk about Brehgert as Lady Monogram did of Sir
Damask. She had plucked up so much courage as had enabled her to
declare her fate to her old friend,--remembering as she did so how in
days long past she and her friend Julia Triplex had scattered their
scorn upon some poor girl who had married a man with a Jewish name,--
whose grandfather had possibly been a Jew. 'Dear me,' said Lady
Monogram. 'Todd, Brehgert, and Goldsheiner! Mr Todd is--one of us, I
'Yes,' said Georgiana boldly, 'and Mr Brehgert is a Jew. His name is
Ezekiel Brehgert, and he is a Jew. You can say what you like about
'I don't say anything about it, my dear.'
'And you can think anything you like. Things are changed since you and
I were younger.'
'Very much changed, it appears,' said Lady Monogram. Sir Damask's
religion had never been doubted, though except on the occasion of his
marriage no acquaintance of his had probably ever seen him in church.
But to tell her father and mother required a higher spirit than she
had shown even in her communication to Lady Monogram, and that spirit
had not as yet come to her. On the morning before she left the
Melmottes in Bruton Street, her lover had been with her. The Melmottes
of course knew of the engagement and quite approved of it. Madame
Melmotte rather aspired to credit for having had so happy an affair
arranged under her auspices. It was some set-off against Marie's
unfortunate escapade. Mr Brehgert, therefore, had been allowed to come
and go as he pleased, and on that morning he had pleased to come. They
were sitting alone in some back room, and Brehgert was pressing for an
early day. 'I don't think we need talk of that yet, Mr Brehgert,' she
'You might as well get over the difficulty and call me Ezekiel at
once,' he remarked. Georgiana frowned, and made no soft little attempt
at the name as ladies in such circumstances are wont to do. 'Mrs
Brehgert'--he alluded of course to the mother of his children--'used
to call me Ezzy.'
'Perhaps I shall do so some day,' said Miss Longestaffe, looking at
her lover, and asking herself why she should not have been able to
have the house and the money and the name of the wife without the
troubles appertaining. She did not think it possible that she should
ever call him Ezzy.
'And ven shall it be? I should say as early in August as possible.'
'In August!' she almost screamed. It was already July.
'Vy not, my dear? Ve would have our little holiday in Germany at
Vienna. I have business there, and know many friends.' Then he pressed
her hard to fix some day in the next month. It would be expedient that
they should be married from the Melmottes' house, and the Melmottes
would leave town some time in August. There was truth in this. Unless
married from the Melmottes' house, she must go down to Caversham for
the occasion,--which would be intolerable. No,--she must separate
herself altogether from father and mother, and become one with the
Melmottes and the Brehgerts,--till she could live it down and make a
position for herself. If the spending of money could do it, it should
'I must at any rate ask mamma about it,' said Georgiana. Mr Brehgert,
with the customary good-humour of his people, was satisfied with the
answer, and went away promising that he would meet his love at the
great Melmotte reception. Then she sat silent, thinking how she should
declare the matter to her family. Would it not be better for her to
say to them at once that there must be a division among them,--an
absolute breaking off of all old ties, so that it should be tacitly
acknowledged that she, Georgiana, had gone out from among the
Longestaffes altogether, and had become one with the Melmottes,
Brehgerts, and Goldsheiners?
CHAPTER LXI - LADY MONOGRAM PREPARES FOR THE PARTY
When the little conversation took place between Lady Monogram and Miss
Longestaffe, as recorded in the last chapter, Mr Melmotte was in all
his glory, and tickets for the entertainment were very precious.
Gradually their value subsided. Lady Monogram had paid very dear for
hers,--especially as the reception of Mr Brehgert must be considered.
But high prices were then being paid. A lady offered to take Marie
Melmotte into the country with her for a week; but this was before the
elopement. Mr Cohenlupe was asked out to dinner to meet two peers and
a countess. Lord Alfred received various presents. A young lady gave a
lock of her hair to Lord Nidderdale, although it was known that he was
to marry Marie Melmotte. And Miles Grendall got back an I.O.U. of
considerable nominal value from Lord Grasslough, who was anxious to
accommodate two country cousins who were in London. Gradually the
prices fell;--not at first from any doubt in Melmotte, but through
that customary reaction which may be expected on such occasions. But
at eight or nine o'clock on the evening of the party the tickets were
worth nothing. The rumour had then spread itself through the whole
town from Pimlico to Marylebone. Men coming home from clubs had told
their wives. Ladies who had been in the park had heard it. Even the
hairdressers had it, and ladies' maids had been instructed by the
footmen and grooms who had been holding horses and seated on the
coach-boxes. It had got into the air, and had floated round
dining-rooms and over toilet-tables.
I doubt whether Sir Damask would have said a word about it to his wife
as he was dressing for dinner, had he calculated what might be the
result to himself. But he came home open-mouthed, and made no
calculation. 'Have you heard what's up, Ju?' he said, rushing
half-dressed into his wife's room.
'What is up?'
'Haven't you been out?'
'I was shopping, and that kind of thing. I don't want to take that
girl into the Park. I've made a mistake in having her here, but I mean
to be seen with her as little as I can.'
'Be good-natured, Ju, whatever you are.'
'Oh, bother! I know what I'm about. What is it you mean?'
'They say Melmotte's been found out.'
'Found out!' exclaimed Lady Monogram, stopping her maid in some
arrangement which would not need to be continued in the event of her
not going to the reception. 'What do you mean by found out?'
'I don't know exactly. There are a dozen stories told. It's something
about that place he bought of old Longestaffe.'
'Are the Longestaffes mixed up in it? I won't have her here a day
longer if there is anything against them.'
'Don't be an ass, Ju. There's nothing against him except that the poor
old fellow hasn't got a shilling of his money.'
'Then he's ruined,--and there's an end of them.'
'Perhaps he will get it now. Some say that Melmotte has forged a
receipt, others a letter. Some declare that he has manufactured a
whole set of title-deeds. You remember Dolly?'
'Of course I know Dolly Longestaffe,' said Lady Monogram, who had
thought at one time that an alliance with Dolly might be convenient.
'They say he has found it all out. There was always something about
Dolly more than fellows gave him credit for. At any rate, everybody
says that Melmotte will be in quod before long.'
'Not to-night, Damask!'
'Nobody seems to know. Lupton was saying that the policemen would wait
about in the room like servants till the Emperor and the Princes had
'Is Mr Lupton going?'
'He was to have been at the dinner, but hadn't made up his mind
whether he'd go or not when I saw him. Nobody seems to be quite
certain whether the Emperor will go. Somebody said that a Cabinet
Council was to be called to know what to do.'
'A Cabinet Council!'
'Why, you see it's rather an awkward thing, letting the Prince go to
dine with a man who perhaps may have been arrested and taken to gaol
before dinnertime. That's the worst part of it. Nobody knows.'
Lady Monogram waved her attendant away. She piqued herself upon having
a French maid who could not speak a word of English, and was therefore
quite careless what she said in the woman's presence. But, of course,
everything she did say was repeated downstairs in some language that
had become intelligible to the servants generally. Lady Monogram sat
motionless for some time, while her husband, retreating to his own
domain, finished his operations. 'Damask,' she said, when he
reappeared, 'one thing is certain;--we can't go.'
'After you've made such a fuss about it!'
'It is a pity,--having that girl here in the house. You know, don't
you, she's going to marry one of these people?'
'I heard about her marriage yesterday. But Brehgert isn't one of
Melmotte's set. They tell me that Brehgert isn't a bad fellow. A
vulgar cad, and all that, but nothing wrong about him.'
'He's a Jew, and he's seventy years old, and makes up horribly.'
'What does it matter to you if he's eighty? You are determined, then,
you won't go?'
But Lady Monogram had by no means determined that she wouldn't go. She
had paid her price, and with that economy which sticks to a woman
always in the midst of her extravagances, she could not bear to lose
the thing that she had bought. She cared nothing for Melmotte's
villainy, as regarded herself. That he was enriching himself by the
daily plunder of the innocent she had taken for granted since she had
first heard of him. She had but a confused idea of any difference
between commerce and fraud. But it would grieve her greatly to become
known as one of an awkward squad of people who had driven to the door,
and perhaps been admitted to some wretched gathering of wretched
people,--and not, after all, to have met the Emperor and the Prince.
But then, should she hear on the next morning that the Emperor and the
Princes, that the Princesses, and the Duchesses, with the Ambassadors,
Cabinet Ministers, and proper sort of world generally, had all been
there,--that the world, in short, had ignored Melmotte's villainy,--
then would her grief be still greater. She sat down to dinner with her
husband and Miss Longestaffe, and could not talk freely on the matter.
Miss Longestaffe was still a guest of the Melmottes, although she had
transferred herself to the Monograms for a day or two. And a horrible
idea crossed Lady Monogram's mind. What should she do with her friend
Georgiana if the whole Melmotte establishment were suddenly broken up?
Of course, Madame Melmotte would refuse to take the girl back if her
husband were sent to gaol. 'I suppose you'll go,' said Sir Damask as
the ladies left the room.
'Of course we shall,--in about an hour,' said Lady Monogram as she left
the room, looking round at him and rebuking him for his imprudence.
'Because, you know--' and then he called her back. 'If you want me I'll
stay, of course; but if you don't, I'll go down to the club.'
'How can I say, yet? You needn't mind the club to-night.'
'All right;--only it's a bore being here alone.'
Then Miss Longestaffe asked what 'was up.' 'Is there any doubt about
our going to-night?'
'I can't say. I'm so harassed that I don't know what I'm about. There
seems to be a report that the Emperor won't be there.'
'It's all very well to say impossible, my dear,' said Lady Monogram;
'but still that's what people are saying. You see Mr Melmotte is a
very great man, but perhaps--something else has turned up, so that
he may be thrown over. Things of that kind do happen. You had better
finish dressing. I shall. But I shan't make sure of going till I hear
that the Emperor is there.' Then she descended to her husband, whom
she found forlornly consoling himself with a cigar. 'Damask,' she
said, 'you must find out.'
'Find out what?'
'Whether the Prince and the Emperor are there.'
'Send John to ask,' suggested the husband.
'He would be sure to make a blunder about it. If you'd go yourself
you'd learn the truth in a minute. Have a cab,--just go into the hall
and you'll soon know how it all is;--I'd do it in a minute if I were
you.' Sir Damask was the most good-natured man in the world, but he
did not like the job. 'What can be the objection?' asked his wife.
'Go to a man's house and find out whether a man's guests are come
before you go yourself! I don't just see it, Ju.'
'Guests! What nonsense! The Emperor and all the Royal Family! As if it
were like any other party. Such a thing, probably, never happened
before, and never will happen again. If you don't go, Damask, I must;
and I will.' Sir Damask, after groaning and smoking for half a minute,
said that he would go. He made many remonstrances. It was a confounded
bore. He hated emperors and he hated princes. He hated the whole box
and dice of that sort of thing! He 'wished to goodness' that he had
dined at his club and sent word up home that the affair was to be off.
But at last he submitted and allowed his wife to leave the room with
the intention of sending for a cab. The cab was sent for and
announced, but Sir Damask would not stir till he had finished his big
It was past ten when he left his own house. On arriving in Grosvenor
Square he could at once see that the party was going on. The house was
illuminated. There was a concourse of servants round the door, and
half the square was already blocked up with carriages.
It was not without delay that he got to the door, and when there he
saw the royal liveries. There was no doubt about the party. The
Emperor and the Princes and the Princesses were all there. As far as
Sir Damask could then perceive, the dinner had been quite a success.
But again there was a delay in getting away, and it was nearly eleven
before he could reach home. 'It's all right,' said he to his wife.
'They're there, safe enough.'
'You are sure that the Emperor is there.'
'As sure as a man can be without having seen him.'
Miss Longestaffe was present at this moment, and could not but resent
what appeared to be a most unseemly slur cast upon her friends. 'I
don't understand it at all,' she said. 'Of course the Emperor is
there. Everybody has known for the last month that he was coming. What
is the meaning of it, Julia?'
'My dear, you must allow me to manage my own little affairs my own
way. I dare say I am absurd. But I have my reason. Now, Damask, if the
carriage is there we had better start.' The carriage was there, and
they did start, and with a delay which seemed unprecedented, even to
Lady Monogram, who was accustomed to these things, they reached the
door. There was a great crush in the hall, and people were coming
downstairs. But at last they made their way into the room above,
and found that the Emperor of China and all the Royalties had been
there,--but had taken their departure.
Sir Damask put the ladies into the carriage and went at once to his
CHAPTER LXII - THE PARTY
Lady Monogram retired from Mr Melmotte's house in disgust as soon as
she was able to escape; but we must return to it for a short time.
When the guests were once in the drawing-room the immediate sense of
failure passed away. The crowd never became so thick as had been
anticipated. They who were knowing in such matters had declared that
the people would not be able to get themselves out of the room till
three or four o'clock in the morning, and that the carriages would not
get themselves out of the Square till breakfast time. With a view to
this kind of thing Mr Melmotte had been told that he must provide a
private means of escape for his illustrious guests, and with a
considerable sacrifice of walls and general house arrangements this
had been done. No such gathering as was expected took place; but still
the rooms became fairly full, and Mr Melmotte was able to console
himself with the feeling that nothing certainly fatal had as yet
There can be no doubt that the greater part of the people assembled
did believe that their host had committed some great fraud which might
probably bring him under the arm of the law. When such rumours are
spread abroad, they are always believed. There is an excitement and a
pleasure in believing them. Reasonable hesitation at such a moment is
dull and phlegmatic. If the accused one be near enough to ourselves to
make the accusation a matter of personal pain, of course we
disbelieve. But, if the distance be beyond this, we are almost ready
to think that anything may be true of anybody. In this case nobody
really loved Melmotte and everybody did believe. It was so probable
that such a man should have done something horrible! It was only hoped
that the fraud might be great and horrible enough.
Melmotte himself during that part of the evening which was passed
upstairs kept himself in the close vicinity of royalty. He behaved
certainly very much better than he would have done had he had no
weight at his heart. He made few attempts at beginning any
conversation, and answered, at any rate with brevity, when he was
addressed. With scrupulous care he ticked off on his memory the names
of those who had come and whom he knew, thinking that their presence
indicated a verdict of acquittal from them on the evidence already
before them. Seeing the members of the Government all there, he wished
that he had come forward in Westminster as a Liberal. And he freely
forgave those omissions of Royalty as to which he had been so angry at
the India Office, seeing that not a Prince or Princess was lacking of
those who were expected. He could turn his mind to all this, although
he knew how great was his danger. Many things occurred to him as he
stood, striving to smile as a host should smile. It might be the case
that half-a-dozen detectives were already stationed in his own hall
perhaps one or two, well dressed, in the very presence of royalty,--
ready to arrest him as soon as the guests were gone, watching him now
lest he should escape. But he bore the burden,--and smiled. He had
always lived with the consciousness that such a burden was on him and
might crush him at any time. He had known that he had to run these
risks. He had told himself a thousand times that when the dangers
came, dangers alone should never cow him. He had always endeavoured to
go as near the wind as he could, to avoid the heavy hand of the
criminal law of whatever country he inhabited. He had studied the
criminal laws, so that he might be sure in his reckonings; but he had
always felt that he might be carried by circumstances into deeper
waters than he intended to enter. As the soldier who leads a forlorn
hope, or as the diver who goes down for pearls, or as the searcher for
wealth on fever-breeding coasts, knows that as his gains may be great,
so are his perils, Melmotte had been aware that in his life, as it
opened itself out to him, he might come to terrible destruction. He
had not always thought, or even hoped, that he would be as he was now,
so exalted as to be allowed to entertain the very biggest ones of the
earth; but the greatness had grown upon him,--and so had the danger. He
could not now be as exact as he had been. He was prepared himself to
bear all mere ignominy with a tranquil mind,--to disregard any shouts
of reprobation which might be uttered, and to console himself when the
bad quarter of an hour should come with the remembrance that he had
garnered up a store sufficient for future wants and placed it beyond
the reach of his enemies. But as his intellect opened up to him new
schemes, and as his ambition got the better of his prudence, he
gradually fell from the security which he had preconceived, and became
aware that he might have to bear worse than ignominy.
Perhaps never in his life had he studied his own character and his own
conduct more accurately, or made sterner resolves, than he did as he
stood there smiling, bowing, and acting without impropriety the part
of host to an Emperor. No;--he could not run away. He soon made himself
sure of that. He had risen too high to be a successful fugitive, even
should he succeed in getting off before hands were laid upon him. He
must bide his ground, if only that he might not at once confess his
own guilt by flight; and he would do so with courage. Looking back at
the hour or two that had just passed he was aware that he had allowed
himself not only to be frightened in the dinner-room,--but also to
seem to be frightened. The thing had come upon him unawares and he had
been untrue to himself. He acknowledged that. He should not have asked
those questions of Mr Todd and Mr Beauclerk, and should have been more
good-humoured than usual with Lord Alfred in discussing those empty
seats. But for spilt milk there is no remedy. The blow had come upon
him too suddenly, and he had faltered. But he would not falter again.
Nothing should cow him,--no touch from a policeman, no warrant from a
magistrate, no defalcation of friends, no scorn in the City, no
solitude in the West End. He would go down among the electors to-morrow
and would stand his ground, as though all with him were right. Men
should know at any rate that he had a heart within his bosom. And he
confessed also to himself that he had sinned in that matter of
arrogance. He could see it now,--as so many of us do see the faults
which we have committed, which we strive, but in vain, to discontinue,
and which we never confess except to our own bosoms. The task which he
had imposed on himself, and to which circumstances had added weight,
had been very hard to bear. He should have been good-humoured to
these great ones whose society he had gained. He should have bound
these people to him by a feeling of kindness as well as by his money.
He could see it all now. And he could see too that there was no help
for spilt milk. I think he took some pride in his own confidence as to
his own courage, as he stood there turning it all over in his mind.
Very much might be suspected. Something might be found out. But the
task of unravelling it all would not be easy. It is the small vermin
and the little birds that are trapped at once. But wolves and vultures
can fight hard before they are caught. With the means which would
still be at his command, let the worst come to the worst, he could
make a strong fight. When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a
certain safety in their very diversity and proportions. Might it not
be that the fact that these great ones of the earth had been his
guests should speak in his favour? A man who had in very truth had the
real brother of the Sun dining at his table could hardly be sent into
the dock and then sent out of it like a common felon.
Madame Melmotte during the evening stood at the top of her own stairs
with a chair behind her on which she could rest herself for a moment
when any pause took place in the arrivals. She had of course dined at
the table,--or rather sat there;--but had been so placed that no duty
had devolved upon her. She had heard no word of the rumours, and would
probably be the last person in that house to hear them. It never
occurred to her to see whether the places down the table were full or
empty. She sat with her large eyes fixed on the Majesty of China and
must have wondered at her own destiny at finding herself with an
Emperor and Princes to look at. From the dining-room she had gone when
she was told to go, up to the drawing-room, and had there performed
her task, longing only for the comfort of her bedroom. She, I think,
had but small sympathy with her husband in all his work, and but
little understanding of the position in which she had been placed.
Money she liked, and comfort, and perhaps diamonds and fine dresses,
but she can hardly have taken pleasure in duchesses or have enjoyed
the company of the Emperor. From the beginning of the Melmotte era it
had been an understood thing that no one spoke to Madame Melmotte.
Marie Melmotte had declined a seat at the dinner-table. This at first
had been cause of quarrel between her and her father, as he desired to
have seen her next to young Lord Nidderdale as being acknowledged to
be betrothed to him. But since the journey to Liverpool he had said
nothing on the subject. He still pressed the engagement, but thought
now that less publicity might be expedient. She was, however, in the
drawing-room standing at first by Madame Melmotte, and afterwards
retreating among the crowd. To some ladies she was a person of
interest as the young woman who had lately run away under such strange
circumstances; but no one spoke to her till she saw a girl whom she
herself knew, and whom she addressed, plucking up all her courage for
the occasion. This was Hetta Carbury who had been brought hither by
The tickets for Lady Carbury and Hetta had of course been sent before
the elopement;--and also, as a matter of course, no reference had been
made to them by the Melmotte family after the elopement. Lady Carbury
herself was anxious that that affair should not be considered as
having given cause for any personal quarrel between herself and Mr
Melmotte, and in her difficulty had consulted Mr Broune. Mr Broune was
the staff on which she leant at present in all her difficulties. Mr
Broune was going to the dinner. All this of course took place while
Melmotte's name was as yet unsullied as snow. Mr Broune saw no reason
why Lady Carbury should not take advantage of her tickets. These
invitations were simply tickets to see the Emperor surrounded by the
Princes. The young lady's elopement is 'no affair of yours,' Mr Broune
had said. 'I should go, if it were only for the sake of showing that
you did not consider yourself to be implicated in the matter.' Lady
Carbury did as she was advised, and took her daughter with her.
'Nonsense,' said the mother, when Hetta objected; 'Mr Broune sees it
quite in the right light. This is a grand demonstration in honour of
the Emperor, rather than a private party;--and we have done nothing
to offend the Melmottes. You know you wish to see the Emperor.' A few
minutes before they started from Welbeck Street a note came from Mr
Broune, written in pencil and sent from Melmotte's house by a
Commissioner. 'Don't mind what you hear; but come. I am here and as
far as I can see it is all right. The E. is beautiful, and P.'s are as
thick as blackberries.' Lady Carbury, who had not been in the way of
hearing the reports, understood nothing of this; but of course she
went. And Hetta went with her.
Hetta was standing alone in a corner, near to her mother, who was
talking to Mr Booker, with her eyes fixed on the awful tranquillity of
the Emperor's countenance, when Marie Melmotte timidly crept up to her
and asked her how she was. Hetta, probably, was not very cordial to
the poor girl, being afraid of her, partly as the daughter of the
great Melmotte and partly as the girl with whom her brother had failed
to run away; but Marie was not rebuked by this. 'I hope you won't be
angry with me for speaking to you.' Hetta smiled more graciously. She
could not be angry with the girl for speaking to her, feeling that she
was there as the guest of the girl's mother. 'I suppose you know about
your brother,' said Marie, whispering with her eyes turned to the
'I have heard about it,' said Hetta. 'He never told me himself.'
'Oh, I do so wish that I knew the truth. I know nothing. Of course,
Miss Carbury, I love him. I do love him so dearly! I hope you don't
think I would have done it if I hadn't loved him better than anybody
in the world. Don't you think that if a girl loves a man,--really
loves him,--that ought to go before everything?'
This was a question that Hetta was hardly prepared to answer. She felt
quite certain that under no circumstances would she run away with a
man. 'I don't quite know. It is so hard to say,' she replied.
'I do. What's the good of anything if you're to be broken-hearted? I
don't care what they say of me, or what they do to me, if he would
only be true to me. Why doesn't he--let me know--something about it?'
This also was a question difficult to be answered. Since that horrid
morning on which Sir Felix had stumbled home drunk,--which was now
four days since,--he had not left the house in Welbeck Street till
this evening. He had gone out a few minutes before Lady Carbury had
started, but up to that time he had almost kept his bed. He would not
get up till dinner-time, would come down after some half-dressed
fashion, and then get back to his bedroom, where he would smoke and
drink brandy-and-water and complain of headache. The theory was that
he was ill;--but he was in fact utterly cowed and did not dare to show
himself at his usual haunts. He was aware that he had quarrelled at
the club, aware that all the world knew of his intended journey to
Liverpool, aware that he had tumbled about the streets intoxicated. He
had not dared to show himself, and the feeling had grown upon him from
day to day. Now, fairly worn out by his confinement, he had crept out
intending, if possible, to find consolation with Ruby Ruggles. 'Do
tell me. Where is he?' pleaded Marie.
'He has not been very well lately.'
'Is he ill? Oh, Miss Carbury, do tell me. You can understand what it
is to love him as I do--can't you?'
'He has been ill. I think he is better now.'
'Why does he not come to me, or send to me; or let me know something?
It is cruel, is it not? Tell me,--you must know,--does he really care
Hetta was exceedingly perplexed. The real feeling betrayed by the girl
recommended her. Hetta could not but sympathize with the affection
manifested for her own brother, though she could hardly understand the
want of reticence displayed by Marie in thus speaking of her love to
one who was almost a stranger. 'Felix hardly ever talks about himself
to me,' she said.
'If he doesn't care for me, there shall be an end of it,' Marie said
very gravely. 'If I only knew! If I thought that he loved me, I'd go
through,--oh,--all the world for him. Nothing that papa could say
should stop me. That's my feeling about it. I have never talked to
any one but you about it. Isn't that strange? I haven't a person to
talk to. That's my feeling, and I'm not a bit ashamed of it. There's
no disgrace in being in love. But it's very bad to get married without
being in love. That's what I think.'
'It is bad,' said Hetta, thinking of Roger Carbury.
'But if Felix doesn't care for me!' continued Marie, sinking her voice
to a low whisper, but still making her words quite audible to her
companion. Now Hetta was strongly of opinion that her brother did not
in the least 'care for' Marie Melmotte, and that it would be very much
for the best that Marie Melmotte should know the truth. But she had
not that sort of strength which would have enabled her to tell it.
'Tell me just what you think,' said Marie. Hetta was still silent.
'Ah,--I see. Then I must give him up? Eh?'
'What can I say, Miss Melmotte? Felix never tells me. He is my
brother,--and of course I love you for loving him.' This was almost
more than Hetta meant; but she felt herself constrained to say some
'Do you? Oh! I wish you did. I should so like to be loved by you.
Nobody loves me, I think. That man there wants to marry me. Do you
know him? He is Lord Nidderdale. He is very nice; but he does not love
me any more than he loves you. That's the way with men. It isn't the
way with me. I would go with Felix and slave for him if he were poor.
Is it all to be over then? You will give him a message from me?'
Hetta, doubting as to the propriety of the promise, promised that she
would. 'Just tell him I want to know; that's all. I want to know.
You'll understand. I want to know the real truth. I suppose I do know
it now. Then I shall not care what happens to me. It will be all the
same. I suppose I shall marry that young man, though it will be very
bad. I shall just be as if I hadn't any self of my own at all. But he
ought to send me word after all that has passed. Do not you think he
ought to send me word?'
'You tell him, then,' said Marie, nodding her head as she crept away.
Nidderdale had been observing her while she had been talking to Miss
Carbury. He had heard the rumour, and of course felt that it behoved
him to be on his guard more specially than any one else. But he had
not believed what he had heard. That men should be thoroughly immoral,
that they should gamble, get drunk, run into debt, and make love to
other men's wives, was to him a matter of everyday life. Nothing of
that kind shocked him at all. But he was not as yet quite old enough
to believe in swindling. It had been impossible to convince him that
Miles Grendall had cheated at cards, and the idea that Mr Melmotte had
forged was as improbable and shocking to him as that an officer should
run away in battle. Common soldiers, he thought, might do that sort of
thing. He had almost fallen in love with Marie when he saw her last,
and was inclined to feel the more kindly to her now because of the
hard things that were being said about her father. And yet he knew
that he must be careful. If 'he came a cropper' in this matter, it
would be such an awful cropper! 'How do you like the party?' he said
'I don't like it at all, my lord. How do you like it?'
'Very much, indeed. I think the Emperor is the greatest fun I ever
saw. Prince Frederic,'--one of the German princes who was staying at
the time among his English cousins,--'Prince Frederic says that he's
stuffed with hay, and that he's made up fresh every morning at a shop
in the Haymarket.'
'I've seen him talk.'
'He opens his mouth, of course. There is machinery as well as hay. I
think he's the grandest old buffer out, and I'm awfully glad that I've
dined with him. I couldn't make out whether he really put anything to
eat into his jolly old mouth.'
'Of course he did.'
'Have you been thinking about what we were talking about the other
'No, my lord,--I haven't thought about it since. Why should I?'
'Well;--it's a sort of thing that people do think about, you know.'
'You don't think about it.'
'Don't I? I've been thinking about nothing else the last three
'You've been thinking whether you'd get married or not.'
'That's what I mean,' said Lord Nidderdale.
'It isn't what I mean, then.'
'I'll be shot if I can understand you.'
'Perhaps not. And you never will understand me. Oh, goodness they're
all going, and we must get out of the way. Is that Prince Frederic,
who told you about the hay? He is handsome; isn't he? And who is that
in the violet dress with all the pearls?'
'That's the Princess Dwarza.'
'Dear me;--isn't it odd, having a lot of people in one's own house,
and not being able to speak a word to them? I don't think it's at
all nice. Good night, my lord. I'm glad you like the Emperor.'
And then the people went, and when they had all gone Melmotte put his
wife and daughter into his own carriage, telling them that he would
follow them on foot to Bruton Street when he had given some last
directions to the people who were putting out the lights, and
extinguishing generally the embers of the entertainment. He had looked
round for Lord Alfred, taking care to avoid the appearance of
searching; but Lord Alfred had gone. Lord Alfred was one of those who
knew when to leave a falling house. Melmotte at the moment thought of
all that he had done for Lord Alfred, and it was something of the real
venom of ingratitude that stung him at the moment rather than this
additional sign of coming evil. He was more than ordinarily gracious
as he put his wife into the carriage, and remarked that, considering
all things, the party had gone off very well. 'I only wish it could
have been done a little cheaper,' he said laughing. Then he went back
into the house, and up into the drawing-rooms which were now utterly
deserted. Some of the lights had been put out, but the men were busy
in the rooms below, and he threw himself into the chair in which the
Emperor had sat. It was wonderful that he should come to such a fate
as this;--that he, the boy out of the gutter, should entertain at his
own house, in London, a Chinese Emperor and English and German
Royalty,--and that he should do so almost with a rope round his neck.
Even if this were to be the end of it all, men would at any rate
remember him. The grand dinner which he had given before he was put
into prison would live in history. And it would be remembered, too,
that he had been the Conservative candidate for the great borough of
Westminster,--perhaps, even, the elected member. He, too, in his manner,
assured himself that a great part of him would escape Oblivion. 'Non
omnis moriar,' in some language of his own, was chanted by him within
his own breast, as he sat there looking out on his own magnificent suite
of rooms from the armchair which had been consecrated by the use of an
No policemen had come to trouble him yet. No hint that he would be
'wanted' had been made to him. There was no tangible sign that things
were not to go on as they went before. Things would be exactly as they
were before, but for the absence of those guests from the
dinner-table, and for the words which Miles Grendall had spoken. Had
he not allowed himself to be terrified by shadows? Of course he had
known that there must be such shadows. His life had been made dark by
similar clouds before now, and he had lived through the storms which
had followed them. He was thoroughly ashamed of the weakness which had
overcome him at the dinner-table, and of that palsy of fear which he
had allowed himself to exhibit. There should be no more shrinking such
as that. When people talked of him they should say that he was at
least a man.
As this was passing through his mind a head was pushed in through one
of the doors, and immediately withdrawn. It was his Secretary. 'Is
that you, Miles?' he said. 'Come in. I'm just going home, and came up
here to see how the empty rooms would look after they were all gone.
What became of your father?'
'I suppose he went away.'
'I suppose he did,' said Melmotte, unable to hinder himself from
throwing a certain tone of scorn into his voice,--as though proclaiming
the fate of his own house and the consequent running away of the rat.
'It went off very well, I think.'
'Very well,' said Miles, still standing at the door. There had been a
few words of consultation between him and his father,--only a very
few words. 'You'd better see it out to-night, as you've had a regular
salary, and all that. I shall hook it. I sha'n't go near him to-morrow
till I find out how things are going. By G----, I've had about enough
of him.' But hardly enough of his money or it may be presumed that Lord
Alfred would have 'hooked it' sooner.
'Why don't you come in, and not stand there?' said Melmotte. 'There's
no Emperor here now for you to be afraid of.'
'I'm afraid of nobody,' said Miles, walking into the middle of the
'Nor am I. What's one man that another man should be afraid of him?
We've got to die, and there'll be an end of it, I suppose.'
'That's about it,' said Miles, hardly following the working of his
'I shouldn't care how soon. When a man has worked as I have done, he
gets about tired at my age. I suppose I'd better be down at the
committee-room about ten to-morrow?'
'That's the best, I should say.'
'You'll be there by that time?' Miles Grendall assented slowly, and
with imperfect assent. 'And tell your father he might as well be there
as early as convenient.'
'All right,' said Miles as he took his departure.
'Curs!' said Melmotte almost aloud. 'They neither of them will be
there. If any evil can be done to me by treachery and desertion, they
will do it.' Then it occurred to him to think whether the Grendall
article had been worth all the money that he had paid for it. 'Curs!'
he said again. He walked down into the hall, and through the
banqueting-room, and stood at the place where he himself had sat. What
a scene it had been, and how frightfully low his heart had sunk within
him! It had been the defection of the Lord Mayor that had hit him
hardest. 'What cowards they are!' The men went on with their work, not
noticing him, and probably not knowing him. The dinner had been done
by contract, and the contractor's foreman was there. The care of the
house and the alterations had been confided to another contractor, and
his foreman was waiting to see the place locked up. A confidential
clerk, who had been with Melmotte for years, and who knew his ways,
was there also to guard the property. 'Good night, Croll,' he said to
the man in German. Croll touched his hat and bade him good night.
Melmotte listened anxiously to the tone of the man's voice, trying to
catch from it some indication of the mind within. Did Croll know of
these rumours, and if so, what did he think of them? Croll had known
him in some perilous circumstances before, and had helped him through
them. He paused a moment as though he would ask a question, but
resolved at last that silence would be safest. 'You'll see everything
safe, eh, Croll?' Croll said that he would see everything safe, and
Melmotte passed out into the Square.
He had not far to go, round through Berkeley Square into Bruton
Street, but he stood for a few moments looking up at the bright stars.
If he could be there, in one of those unknown distant worlds, with all
his present intellect and none of his present burdens, he would, he
thought, do better than he had done here on earth. If he could even
now put himself down nameless, fameless, and without possessions in
some distant corner of the world, he could, he thought, do better. But
he was Augustus Melmotte, and he must bear his burdens, whatever they
were, to the end. He could reach no place so distant but that he would
be known and traced.
CHAPTER LXIII - MR MELMOTTE ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION
No election of a Member of Parliament by ballot in a borough so large
as that of Westminster had as yet been achieved in England since the
ballot had been established by law. Men who heretofore had known, or
thought that they knew, how elections would go, who counted up
promises, told off professed enemies, and weighed the doubtful ones,
now confessed themselves to be in the dark. Three days since the odds
had been considerably in Melmotte's favour; but this had come from the
reputation attached to his name, rather than from any calculation as
to the politics of the voters. Then Sunday had intervened. On the
Monday Melmotte's name had continued to go down in the betting from
morning to evening. Early in the day his supporters had thought little
of this, attributing the fall to that vacillation which is customary
in such matters; but towards the latter part of the afternoon the
tidings from the City had been in everybody's mouth, and Melmotte's
committee-room had been almost deserted. At six o'clock there were
some who suggested that his name should be withdrawn. No such
suggestion, however, was made to him,--perhaps, because no one dared to
make it. On the Monday evening all work and strategy for the election,
as regarded Melmotte and his party, died away; and the interest of the
hour was turned to the dinner.
But Mr Alf's supporters were very busy. There had been a close
consultation among a few of them as to what should be done by their
Committee as to these charges against the opposite candidate. In the
'Pulpit' of that evening an allusion had been made to the affair,
which was of course sufficiently intelligible to those who were
immediately concerned in the matter, but which had given no name and
mentioned no details. Mr Alf explained that this had been put in by
the sub-editor, and that it only afforded such news as the paper was
bound to give to the public. He himself pointed out the fact that no
note of triumph had been sounded, and that the rumour had not been
connected with the election.
One old gentleman was of opinion that they were bound to make the most
of it. 'It's no more than we've all believed all along,' said the old
gentleman, 'and why are we to let a fellow like that get the seat if
we can keep him out?' He was of opinion that everything should be done
to make the rumour with all its exaggerations as public as possible,--
so that there should be no opening for an indictment for libel; and
the clever old gentleman was full of devices by which this might be
effected. But the Committee generally was averse to fight in this
manner. Public opinion has its Bar as well as the Law Courts. If,
after all, Melmotte had committed no fraud,--or, as was much more
probable, should not be convicted of fraud,--then it would be said that
the accusation had been forged for purely electioneering purposes, and
there might be a rebound which would pretty well crush all those who
had been concerned. Individual gentlemen could, of course, say what
they pleased to individual voters; but it was agreed at last that no
overt use should be made of the rumours by Mr Alf's Committee. In
regard to other matters, they who worked under the Committee were busy
enough. The dinner to the Emperor was turned into ridicule, and the
electors were asked whether they felt themselves bound to return a
gentleman out of the City to Parliament because he had offered to
spend a fortune on entertaining all the royalties then assembled in
London. There was very much said on placards and published in
newspapers to the discredit of Melmotte, but nothing was so printed
which would not have appeared with equal venom had the recent rumours
never been sent out from the City. At twelve o'clock at night, when Mr
Alf's committee-room was being closed, and when Melmotte was walking
home to bed, the general opinion at the clubs was very much in favour
of Mr Alf.
On the next morning Melmotte was up before eight. As yet no policeman
had called for him, nor had any official intimation reached him that
an accusation was to be brought against him. On coming down from his
bedroom he at once went into the back-parlour on the ground floor,
which Mr Longestaffe called his study, and which Mr Melmotte had used
since he had been in Mr Longestaffe's house for the work which he did
at home. He would be there often early in the morning, and often late
at night after Lord Alfred had left him. There were two heavy
desk-tables in the room, furnished with drawers down to the ground.
One of these the owner of the house had kept locked for his own
purposes. When the bargain for the temporary letting of the house had
been made, Mr Melmotte and Mr Longestaffe were close friends. Terms
for the purchase of Pickering had just been made, and no cause for
suspicion had as yet arisen. Everything between the two gentlemen had
been managed with the greatest ease. Oh dear, yes! Mr Longestaffe
could come whenever he pleased. He, Melmotte, always left the house at
ten and never returned till six. The ladies would never enter that
room. The servants were to regard Mr Longestaffe quite as master of
the house as far as that room was concerned. If Mr Longestaffe could
spare it, Mr Melmotte would take the key of one of the tables. The
matter was arranged very pleasantly.
Mr Melmotte on entering the room bolted the door, and then, sitting at
his own table, took certain papers out of the drawers,--a bundle of
letters and another of small documents. From these, with very little
examination, he took three or four,--two or three perhaps from each.
These he tore into very small fragments and burned the bits,--holding
them over a gas-burner and letting the ashes fall into a large china
plate. Then he blew the ashes into the yard through the open window.
This he did to all these documents but one. This one he put bit by bit
into his mouth, chewing the paper into a pulp till he swallowed it.
When he had done this, and had re-locked his own drawers, he walked
across to the other table, Mr Longestaffe's table, and pulled the
handle of one of the drawers. It opened;--and then, without touching
the contents, he again closed it. He then knelt down and examined the
lock, and the hole above into which the bolt of the lock ran. Having
done this he again closed the drawer, drew back the bolt of the door,
and, seating himself at his own desk, rang the bell which was close to
hand. The servant found him writing letters after his usual hurried
fashion, and was told that he was ready for breakfast. He always
breakfasted alone with a heap of newspapers around him, and so he did
on this day. He soon found the paragraph alluding to himself in the
'Pulpit,' and read it without a quiver in his face or the slightest
change in his colour. There was no one to see him now,--but he was
acting under a resolve that at no moment, either when alone, or in a
crowd, or when suddenly called upon for words,--not even when the
policemen with their first hints of arrest should come upon him,--
would he betray himself by the working of a single muscle, or the loss
of a drop of blood from his heart. He would go through it, always
armed, without a sign of shrinking. It had to be done, and he would do
At ten he walked down to the central committee-room at Whitehall
Place. He thought that he would face the world better by walking than
if he were taken in his own brougham. He gave orders that the carriage
should be at the committee-room at eleven, and wait an hour for him if
he was not there. He went along Bond Street and Piccadilly, Regent
Street and through Pall Mall to Charing Cross, with the blandly
triumphant smile of a man who had successfully entertained the great
guest of the day. As he got near the club he met two or three men whom
he knew, and bowed to them. They returned his bow graciously enough,
but not one of them stopped to speak to him. Of one he knew that he
would have stopped, had it not been for the rumour. Even after the man
had passed on he was careful to show no displeasure on his face. He
would take it all as it would come and still be the blandly triumphant
Merchant Prince,--as long as the police would allow him. He probably
was not aware how very different was the part he was now playing from
that which he had assumed at the India Office.
At the committee-room he only found a few understrappers, and was
informed that everything was going on regularly. The electors were
balloting; but with the ballot,--so said the leader of the
understrappers,--there never was any excitement. The men looked
half-frightened,--as though they did not quite know whether they ought
to seize their candidate, and hold him till the constable came. They
certainly had not expected to see him there. 'Has Lord Alfred been
here?' Melmotte asked, standing in the inner room with his back to the
empty grate. No,--Lord Alfred had not been there. 'Nor Mr Grendall?'
The senior understrapper knew that Melmotte would have asked for 'his
Secretary,' and not for Mr Grendall, but for the rumours. It is so
hard not to tumble into Scylla when you are avoiding Charybdis. Mr
Grendall had not been there. Indeed, nobody had been there. 'In fact,
there is nothing more to be done, I suppose?' said Mr Melmotte. The
senior understrapper thought that there was nothing more to be done.
He left word that his brougham should be sent away, and strolled out
again on foot.
He went up into Covent Garden, where there was a polling booth. The
place seemed to him, as one of the chief centres for a contested
election, to be wonderfully quiet. He was determined to face everybody
and everything, and he went close up to the booth. Here he was
recognised by various men, mechanics chiefly, who came forward and
shook hands with him. He remained there for an hour conversing with
people, and at last made a speech to a little knot around him. He did
not allude to the rumour of yesterday, nor to the paragraph in the
'Pulpit' to which his name had not been attached; but he spoke freely
enough of the general accusations that had been brought against him
previously. He wished the electors to understand that nothing which
had been said against him made him ashamed to meet them here or
elsewhere. He was proud of his position, and proud that the electors
of Westminster should recognise it. He did not, he was glad to say,
know much of the law, but he was told that the law would protect him
from such aspersions as had been unfairly thrown upon him. He
flattered himself that he was too good an Englishman to regard the
ordinary political attacks to which candidates were, as a matter of
course, subject at elections;--and he could stretch his back to bear
perhaps a little more than these, particularly as he looked forward to
a triumphant return. But things had been said, and published, which
the excitement of an election could not justify, and as to these
things he must have recourse to the law. Then he made some allusion to
the Princes and the Emperor, and concluded by observing that it was
the proudest boast of his life to be an Englishman and a Londoner.
It was asserted afterwards that this was the only good speech he
had ever been known to make; and it was certainly successful, as
he was applauded throughout Covent Garden. A reporter for the
'Breakfast-Table' who was on duty at the place, looking for paragraphs
as to the conduct of electors, gave an account of the speech in that
paper, and made more of it, perhaps, than it deserved. It was asserted
afterwards, and given as a great proof of Melmotte's cleverness, that
he had planned the thing and gone to Covent Garden all alone having
considered that in that way could he best regain a step in reputation;
but in truth the affair had not been pre-concerted. It was while in
Whitehall Place that he had first thought of going to Covent Garden,
and he had had no idea of making a speech till the people had gathered
It was then noon, and he had to determine what he should do next. He
was half inclined to go round to all the booths and make speeches. His
success at Covent Garden had been very pleasant to him. But he feared
that he might not be so successful elsewhere. He had shown that he was
not afraid of the electors. Then an idea struck him that he would go
boldly into the City,--to his own offices in Abchurch Lane. He had
determined to be absent on this day, and would not be expected. But
his appearance there could not on that account be taken amiss.
Whatever enmities there might be, or whatever perils, he would face
them. He got a cab therefore and had himself driven to Abchurch Lane.
The clerks were hanging about doing nothing, as though it were a
holiday. The dinner, the election, and the rumour together had
altogether demoralized them. But some of them at least were there, and
they showed no signs of absolute insubordination. 'Mr Grendall has not
been here?' he asked. No; Mr Grendall had not been there; but Mr
Cohenlupe was in Mr Grendall's room. At this moment he hardly desired
to see Mr Cohenlupe. That gentleman was privy to many of his
transactions, but was by no means privy to them all. Mr Cohenlupe knew
that the estate at Pickering had been purchased, and knew that it had
been mortgaged. He knew also what had become of the money which had so
been raised. But he knew nothing of the circumstances of the purchase,
although he probably surmised that Melmotte had succeeded in getting
the title-deeds on credit, without paying the money. He was afraid
that he could hardly see Cohenlupe and hold his tongue, and that he
could not speak to him without danger. He and Cohenlupe might have to
stand in a dock together; and Cohenlupe had none of his spirit. But
the clerks would think, and would talk, were he to leave the office
without seeing his old friend. He went therefore into his own room,
and called to Cohenlupe as he did so.
'Ve didn't expect you here to-day,' said the member for Staines.
'Nor did I expect to come. But there isn't much to do at Westminster
while the ballot is going on; so I came up, just to look at the
letters. The dinner went off pretty well yesterday, eh?'
'Uncommon;--nothing better. Vy did the Lord Mayor stay away,
'Because he's an ass and a cur,' said Mr Melmotte with an assumed air
of indignation. 'Alf and his people had got hold of him. There was
ever so much fuss about it at first,--whether he would accept the
invitation. I say it was an insult to the City to take it and not to
come. I shall be even with him some of these days.'
'Things will go on just the same as usual, Melmotte?'
'Go on. Of course they'll go. What's to hinder them?'
'There's ever so much been said,' whispered Cohenlupe.
'Said;--yes,' ejaculated Melmotte very loudly. 'You're not such a
fool, I hope, as to believe every word you hear. You'll have enough
to believe, if you do.'
'There's no knowing vat anybody does know, and vat anybody does not
know,' said Cohenlupe.
'Look you here, Cohenlupe,'--and now Melmotte also sank his voice to a
whisper,--'keep your tongue in your mouth; go about just as usual, and
say nothing. It's all right. There has been some heavy pulls upon us.'
'Oh dear, there has indeed!'
'But any paper with my name to it will come right.'
'That's nothing;--nothing at all,' said Cohenlupe.
'And there is nothing;--nothing at all! I've bought some property and
have paid for it; and I have bought some, and have not yet paid for
it. There's no fraud in that.'
'No, no,--nothing in that.'
'You hold your tongue, and go about your business. I'm going to the
bank now.' Cohenlupe had been very low in spirits, and was still low
in spirits; but he was somewhat better after the visit of the great
man to the City.
Mr Melmotte was as good as his word and walked straight to the bank.
He kept two accounts at different banks, one for his business, and one
for his private affairs. The one he now entered was that which kept
what we may call his domestic account. He walked straight through,
after his old fashion, to the room behind the bank in which sat the
manager and the manager's one clerk, and stood upon the rug before the
fireplace just as though nothing had happened,--or as nearly as though
nothing had happened as was within the compass of his powers. He could
not quite do it. In keeping up an appearance intended to be natural he
was obliged to be somewhat milder than his wont. The manager did not
behave nearly as well as he did, and the clerks manifestly betrayed
their emotion. Melmotte saw that it was so;--but he had expected it,
and had come there on purpose to 'put it down.'
'We hardly expected to see you in the City to-day, Mr Melmotte.'
'And I didn't expect to see myself here. But it always happens that
when one expects that there's most to be done, there's nothing to be
done at all. They're all at work down at Westminster, balloting; but
as I can't go on voting for myself, I'm of no use. I've been at Covent
Garden this morning, making a stump speech, and if all that they say
there is true, I haven't much to be afraid of.'
'And the dinner went off pretty well?' asked the manager.
'Very well, indeed. They say the Emperor liked it better than anything
that has been done for him yet.' This was a brilliant flash of
imagination. 'For a friend to dine with me every day, you know, I
should prefer somebody who had a little more to say for himself. But
then, perhaps, you know, if you or I were in China we shouldn't have
much to say for ourselves;--eh?' The manager acceded to this
proposition. 'We had one awful disappointment. His lordship from over
the way didn't come.'
'The Lord Mayor, you mean.'
'The Lord Mayor didn't come! He was frightened at the last moment;--
took it into his head that his authority in the City was somehow
compromised. But the wonder was that the dinner went on without him.'
Then Melmotte referred to the purport of his call there that day. He
would have to draw large cheques for his private wants. 'You don't
give a dinner to an Emperor of China for nothing, you know.' He had
been in the habit of overdrawing on his private account,--making
arrangements with the manager. But now, in the manager's presence, he
drew a regular cheque on his business account for a large sum, and
then, as a sort of afterthought, paid in the £250 which he had
received from Mr Broune on account of the money which Sir Felix had
taken from Marie.
'There don't seem much the matter with him,' said the manager, when
Melmotte had left the room.
'He brazens it out, don't he?' said the senior clerk. But the feeling
of the room after full discussion inclined to the opinion that the
rumours had been a political manoeuvre. Nevertheless, Mr Melmotte
would not now have been allowed to overdraw at the present moment.
CHAPTER LXIV - THE ELECTION
Mr Alf's central committee-room was in Great George Street, and there
the battle was kept alive all the day. It had been decided, as the
reader has been told, that no direct advantage should be taken of that
loud blast of accusation which had been heard throughout the town on
the previous afternoon. There had not been sufficient time for inquiry
as to the truth of that blast. If there were just ground for the
things that had been said, Mr Melmotte would no doubt soon be in gaol,
or would be--wanted. Many had thought that he would escape as soon as
the dinner was over, and had been disappointed when they heard that he
had been seen walking down towards his own committee-room on the
following morning. Others had been told that at the last moment his
name would be withdrawn,--and a question arose as to whether he had
the legal power to withdraw his name after a certain hour on the day
before the ballot. An effort was made to convince a portion of the
electors that he had withdrawn, or would have withdrawn, or should
have withdrawn. When Melmotte was at Covent Garden, a large throng of
men went to Whitehall Place with the view of ascertaining the truth.
He certainly had made no attempt at withdrawal. They who propagated
this report certainly damaged Mr Alf's cause. A second reaction set
in, and there grew a feeling that Mr Melmotte was being ill-used.
Those evil things had been said of him,--many at least so declared,--
not from any true motive, but simply to secure Mr Alf's return. Tidings
of the speech in Covent Garden were spread about at the various polling
places, and did good service to the so-called Conservative cause. Mr
Alf's friends, hearing all this, instigated him also to make a speech.
Something should be said, if only that it might be reported in the
newspapers, to show that they had behaved with generosity, instead of
having injured their enemy by false attacks. Whatever Mr Alf might
say, he might at any rate be sure of a favourable reporter.
About two o'clock in the day, Mr Alf did make a speech,--and a very good
speech it was, if correctly reported in the 'Evening Pulpit.' Mr Alf
was a clever man, ready at all points, with all his powers immediately
at command, and, no doubt, he did make a good speech. But in this
speech, in which we may presume that it would be his intention to
convince the electors that they ought to return him to Parliament,
because, of the two candidates, he was the fittest to represent their
views, he did not say a word as to his own political ideas, not,
indeed, a word that could be accepted as manifesting his own fitness
for the place which it was his ambition to fill. He contented himself
with endeavouring to show that the other man was not fit;--and that he
and his friends, though solicitous of proving to the electors that Mr
Melmotte was about the most unfit man in the world, had been guilty of
nothing shabby in their manner of doing so. 'Mr Melmotte,' he said,
'comes before you as a Conservative, and has told us, by the mouths of
his friends,--for he has not favoured us with many words of his own,--
that he is supported by the whole Conservative party. That party is
not my party, but I respect it. Where, however, are these Conservative
supporters? We have heard, till we are sick of it, of the banquet
which Mr Melmotte gave yesterday. I am told that very few of those
whom he calls his Conservative friends could be induced to attend that
banquet. It is equally notorious that the leading merchants of the
City refused to grace the table of this great commercial prince. I say
that the leaders of the Conservative party have at last found their
candidate out, have repudiated him;--and are seeking now to free
themselves from the individual shame of having supported the
candidature of such a man by remaining in their own houses instead of
clustering round the polling booths. Go to Mr Melmotte's
committee-room and inquire if those leading Conservatives be there.
Look about, and see whether they are walking with him in the streets,
or standing with him in public places, or taking the air with him in
the parks. I respect the leaders of the Conservative party; but they
have made a mistake in this matter, and they know it.' Then he ended
by alluding to the rumours of yesterday. 'I scorn,' said he, 'to say
anything against the personal character of a political opponent, which
I am not in a position to prove. I make no allusion, and have made no
allusion, to reports which were circulated yesterday about him, and
which I believe were originated in the City. They may be false or they
may be true. As I know nothing of the matter, I prefer to regard them
as false, and I recommend you to do the same. But I declared to you
long before these reports were in men's mouths, that Mr Melmotte was
not entitled by his character to represent you in parliament, and I
repeat that assertion. A great British merchant, indeed! How long, do
you think, should a man be known in this city before that title be
accorded to him? Who knew aught of this man two years since,--unless,
indeed, it be some one who had burnt his wings in trafficking with him
in some continental city? Ask the character of this great British
merchant in Hamburg and Vienna; ask it in Paris;--ask those whose
business here has connected them with the assurance companies of
foreign countries, and you will be told whether this is a fit man to
represent Westminster in the British parliament!' There was much more
yet; but such was the tone of the speech which Mr Alf made with the
object of inducing the electors to vote for himself.
At two or three o'clock in the day, nobody knew how the matter was
going. It was supposed that the working-classes were in favour of
Melmotte, partly from their love of a man who spends a great deal of
money, partly from the belief that he was being ill-used,--partly, no
doubt, from that occult sympathy which is felt for crime, when the
crime committed is injurious to the upper classes. Masses of men will
almost feel that a certain amount of injustice ought to be inflicted
on their betters, so as to make things even, and will persuade
themselves that a criminal should be declared to be innocent, because
the crime committed has had a tendency to oppress the rich and pull
down the mighty from their seats. Some few years since, the basest
calumnies that were ever published in this country, uttered by one of
the basest men that ever disgraced the country, levelled, for the most
part, at men of whose characters and services the country was proud,
were received with a certain amount of sympathy by men not themselves
dishonest, because they who were thus slandered had received so many
good things from Fortune, that a few evil things were thought to be
due to them. There had not as yet been time for the formation of such
a feeling generally, in respect of Mr Melmotte. But there was a
commencement of it. It had been asserted that Melmotte was a public
robber. Whom had he robbed? Not the poor. There was not a man in
London who caused the payment of a larger sum in weekly wages than Mr
About three o'clock, the editor of the 'Morning Breakfast-Table'
called on Lady Carbury. 'What is it all about?' she asked, as soon as
her friend was seated. There had been no time for him to explain
anything at Madame Melmotte's reception, and Lady Carbury had as yet
failed in learning any certain news of what was going on.
'I don't know what to make of it,' said Mr Broune. 'There is a story
abroad that Mr Melmotte has forged some document with reference to a
purchase he made,--and hanging on to that story are other stories as
to moneys that he has raised. I should say that it was simply an
electioneering trick, and a very unfair trick, were it not that all
his own side seem to believe it.'
'Do you believe it?'
'Ah,--I could answer almost any question sooner than that.'
'Then he can't be rich at all.'
'Even that would not follow. He has such large concerns in hand that
he might be very much pressed for funds, and yet be possessed of
immense wealth. Everybody says that he pays all his bills.'
'Will he be returned?' she asked.
'From what we hear, we think not; I shall know more about it in an
hour or two. At present I should not like to have to publish an
opinion; but were I forced to bet, I would bet against him. Nobody is
doing anything for him. There can be no doubt that his own party are
ashamed of him. As things used to be, this would have been fatal to
him at the day of election; but now, with the ballot, it won't matter
so much. If I were a candidate, at present, I think I would go to bed
on the last day, and beg all my committee to do the same as soon as
they had put in their voting papers.'
'I am glad Felix did not go to Liverpool,' said Lady Carbury.
'It would not have made much difference. She would have been brought
back all the same. They say Lord Nidderdale still means to marry her.'
'I saw him talking to her last night.'
'There must be an immense amount of property somewhere. No one doubts
that he was rich when he came to England two years ago, and they say
everything has prospered that he has put his hand to since. The
Mexican Railway shares had fallen this morning, but they were at £15
premium yesterday morning. He must have made an enormous deal out of
that.' But Mr Broune's eloquence on this occasion was chiefly
displayed in regard to the presumption of Mr Alf. 'I shouldn't think
him such a fool if he had announced his resignation of the editorship
when he came before the world as a candidate for parliament. But a man
must be mad who imagines that he can sit for Westminster and edit a
London daily paper at the same time.'
'Has it never been done?'
'Never, I think;--that is, by the editor of such a paper as the
"Pulpit." How is a man who sits in parliament himself ever to pretend
to discuss the doings of parliament with impartiality? But Alf
believes that he can do more than anybody else ever did, and he'll
come to the ground. Where's Felix now?'
'Do not ask me,' said the poor mother.
'Is he doing anything?'
'He lies in bed all day, and is out all night.'
'But that wants money.' She only shook her head. 'You do not give him
'I have none to give.'
'I should simply take the key of the house from him,--or bolt the door
if he will not give it up.'
'And be in bed, and listen while he knocks,--knowing that he must
wander in the streets if I refuse to let him in? A mother cannot do
that, Mr Broune. A child has such a hold upon his mother. When her
reason has bade her to condemn him, her heart will not let her carry
out the sentence.' Mr Broune never now thought of kissing Lady
Carbury; but when she spoke thus, he got up and took her hand, and
she, as she pressed his hand, had no fear that she would be kissed.
The feeling between them was changed.
Melmotte dined at home that evening with no company but that of his
wife and daughter. Latterly one of the Grendalls had almost always
joined their party when they did not dine out. Indeed, it was an
understood thing, that Miles Grendall should dine there always, unless
he explained his absence by some engagement,--so that his presence
there had come to be considered as a part of his duty. Not infrequently
'Alfred' and Miles would both come, as Melmotte's dinners and wines
were good, and occasionally the father would take the son's place,--but
on this day they were both absent. Madame Melmotte had not as yet said
a word to any one indicating her own apprehension of any evil. But not
a person had called to-day, the day after the great party,--and even
she, though she was naturally callous in such matters, had begun to
think that she was deserted. She had, too, become so used to the
presence of the Grendalls, that she now missed their company. She
thought that on this day, of all days, when the world was balloting
for her husband at Westminster, they would both have been with him to
discuss the work of the day. 'Is not Mr Grendall coming?' she asked,
as she took her seat at the table.
'No, he is not,' said Melmotte.
'Nor Lord Alfred?'
'Nor Lord Alfred.' Melmotte had returned home much comforted by the
day's proceedings. No one had dared to say a harsh word to his face.
Nothing further had reached his ears. After leaving the bank he had
gone back to his office, and had written letters,--just as if nothing
had happened; and, as far as he could judge, his clerks had plucked up
courage. One of them, about five o'clock, came into him with news from
the west, and with second editions of the evening papers. The clerk
expressed his opinion that the election was going well. Mr Melmotte,
judging from the papers, one of which was supposed to be on his side
and the other of course against him, thought that his affairs
altogether were looking well. The Westminster election had not the
foremost place in his thoughts; but he took what was said on that
subject as indicating the minds of men upon the other matter. He read
Alf's speech, and consoled himself with thinking that Mr Alf had not
dared to make new accusations against him. All that about Hamburg and
Vienna and Paris was as old as the hills, and availed nothing. His
whole candidature had been carried in the face of that. 'I think we
shall do pretty well,' he said to the clerk. His very presence in
Abchurch Lane of course gave confidence. And thus, when he came home,
something of the old arrogance had come back upon him, and he could
swagger at any rate before his wife and servants. 'Nor Lord Alfred,'
he said with scorn. Then he added more. 'The father and son are two
d---- curs.' This of course frightened Madame Melmotte, and she joined
this desertion of the Grendalls to her own solitude all the day.
'Is there anything wrong, Melmotte?' she said afterwards, creeping up
to him in the back parlour, and speaking in French.
'What do you call wrong?'
'I don't know;--but I seem to be afraid of something.'
'I should have thought you were used to that kind of feeling by this
'Then there is something.'
'Don't be a fool. There is always something. There is always much. You
don't suppose that this kind of thing can be carried on as smoothly as
the life of an old maid with £400 a year paid quarterly in advance.'
'Shall we have to move again?' she asked.
'How am I to tell? You haven't much to do when we move, and may get
plenty to eat and drink wherever you go. Does that girl mean to marry
Lord Nidderdale?' Madame Melmotte shook her head. 'What a poor
creature you must be when you can't talk her out of a fancy for such a
reprobate as young Carbury. If she throws me over, I'll throw her
over. I'll flog her within an inch of her life if she disobeys me. You
tell her that I say so.'
'Then he may flog me,' said Marie, when so much of the conversation
was repeated to her that evening. 'Papa does not know me if he thinks
that I'm to be made to marry a man by flogging.' No such attempt was
at any rate made that night, for the father and husband did not again
see his wife or daughter.
Early the next day a report was current that Mr Alf had been returned.
The numbers had not as yet been counted, or the books made up;--but
that was the opinion expressed. All the morning newspapers, including
the 'Breakfast-Table,' repeated this report,--but each gave it as the
general opinion on the matter. The truth would not be known till seven
or eight o'clock in the evening. The Conservative papers did not
scruple to say that the presumed election of Mr Alf was owing to a
sudden declension in the confidence originally felt in Mr Melmotte.
The 'Breakfast-Table,' which had supported Mr Melmotte's candidature,
gave no reason, and expressed more doubt on the result than the other
papers. 'We know not how such an opinion forms itself,' the writer
said,--'but it seems to have been formed. As nothing as yet is really
known, or can be known, we express no opinion of our own upon the
Mr Melmotte again went into the City, and found that things seemed to
have returned very much into their usual grooves. The Mexican Railway
shares were low, and Mr Cohenlupe was depressed in spirits and
unhappy;--but nothing dreadful had occurred or seemed to be threatened.
If nothing dreadful did occur, the railway shares would probably
recover, or nearly recover, their position. In the course of the day,
Melmotte received a letter from Messrs Slow and Bideawhile, which, of
itself, certainly contained no comfort;--but there was comfort to be
drawn even from that letter, by reason of what it did not contain. The
letter was unfriendly in its tone and peremptory. It had come evidently
from a hostile party. It had none of the feeling which had hitherto
prevailed in the intercourse between these two well-known Conservative
gentlemen, Mr Adolphus Longestaffe and Mr Augustus Melmotte. But there
was no allusion in it to forgery; no question of criminal proceedings;
no hint at aught beyond the not unnatural desire of Mr Longestaffe and
Mr Longestaffe's son to be paid for the property at Pickering which Mr
Melmotte had purchased.
'We have to remind you,' said the letter, in continuation of
paragraphs which had contained simply demands for the money, 'that the
title-deeds were delivered to you on receipt by us of authority to
that effect from the Messrs Longestaffe, father and son, on the
understanding that the purchase-money was to be paid to us by you. We
are informed that the property has been since mortgaged by you. We do
not state this as a fact. But the information, whether true or untrue,
forces upon us the necessity of demanding that you should at once pay
to us the purchase-money,--£80,000,--or else return to us the
title-deeds of the estate.'
This letter, which was signed Slow and Bideawhile, declared positively
that the title-deeds had been given up on authority received by them
from both the Longestaffes,--father and son. Now the accusation brought
against Melmotte, as far as he could as yet understand it, was that he
had forged the signature to the young Mr Longestaffe's letter. Messrs
Slow and Bideawhile were therefore on his side. As to the simple debt,
he cared little comparatively about that. Many fine men were walking
about London who owed large sums of money which they could not pay.
As he was sitting at his solitary dinner this evening,--for both his
wife and daughter had declined to join him, saying that they had dined
early,--news was brought to him that he had been elected for
Westminster. He had beaten Mr Alf by something not much less than a
It was very much to be member for Westminster. So much had at any rate
been achieved by him who had begun the world without a shilling and
without a friend,--almost without education! Much as he loved money,
and much as he loved the spending of money, and much as he had made and
much as he had spent, no triumph of his life had been so great to him
as this. Brought into the world in a gutter, without father or mother,
with no good thing ever done for him, he was now a member of the
British Parliament, and member for one of the first cities in the
empire. Ignorant as he was he understood the magnitude of the
achievement, and dismayed as he was as to his present position, still
at this moment he enjoyed keenly a certain amount of elation. Of
course he had committed forgery,--of course he had committed robbery.
That, indeed, was nothing, for he had been cheating and forging and
stealing all his life. Of course he was in danger of almost immediate
detection and punishment. He hardly hoped that the evil day would be
very much longer protracted, and yet he enjoyed his triumph. Whatever
they might do, quick as they might be, they could hardly prevent his
taking his seat in the House of Commons. Then if they sent him to
penal servitude for life, they would have to say that they had so
treated the member for Westminster!
He drank a bottle of claret, and then got some brandy-and-water. In
such troubles as were coming upon him now, he would hardly get
sufficient support from wine. He knew that he had better not drink;--
that is, he had better not drink, supposing the world to be free to
him for his own work and his own enjoyment. But if the world were no
longer free to him, if he were really coming to penal servitude and
annihilation,--then why should he not drink while the time lasted? An
hour of triumphant joy might be an eternity to a man, if the man's
imagination were strong enough so make him so regard his hour. He
therefore took his brandy-and-water freely, and as he took it he was
able to throw his fears behind him, and to assure himself that, after
all, he might even yet escape from his bondages. No;--he would drink
no more. This he said to himself as he filled another beaker. He would
work instead. He would put his shoulder to the wheel, and would yet
conquer his enemies. It would not be so easy to convict a member for
Westminster,--especially if money were spent freely. Was he not the man
who, at his own cost, had entertained the Emperor of China? Would not
that be remembered in his favour? Would not men be unwilling to punish
the man who had received at his own table all the Princes of the land,
and the Prime Minister, and all the Ministers? To convict him would be
a national disgrace. He fully realized all this as he lifted the glass
to his mouth, and puffed out the smoke in large volumes through his
lips. But money must be spent! Yes;--money must be had! Cohenlupe
certainly had money. Though he squeezed it out of the coward's veins
he would have it. At any rate, he would not despair. There was a fight
to be fought yet, and he would fight it to the end. Then he took a
deep drink, and slowly, with careful and almost solemn steps, be made
his way up to his bed.
CHAPTER LXV - MISS LONGESTAFFE WRITES HOME
Lady Monogram, when she left Madame Melmotte's house after that
entertainment of Imperial Majesty which had been to her of so very
little avail, was not in a good humour. Sir Damask, who had himself
affected to laugh at the whole thing, but who had been in truth as
anxious as his wife to see the Emperor in private society, put her
ladyship and Miss Longestaffe into the carriage without a word, and
rushed off to his club in disgust. The affair from beginning to end,
including the final failure, had been his wife's doing. He had been
made to work like a slave, and had been taken against his will to
Melmotte's house, and had seen no Emperor and shaken hands with no
Prince! 'They may fight it out between them now like the Kilkenny
cats.' That was his idea as he closed the carriage-door on the two
ladies,--thinking that if a larger remnant were left of one cat than
of the other that larger remnant would belong to his wife.
'What a horrid affair!' said Lady Monogram. 'Did anybody ever see
anything so vulgar?' This was at any rate unreasonable, for whatever
vulgarity there may have been, Lady Monogram had seen none of it.
'I don't know why you were so late,' said Georgiana.
'Late! Why it's not yet twelve. I don't suppose it was eleven when we
got into the Square. Anywhere else it would have been early.'
'You knew they did not mean to stay long. It was particularly said so.
I really think it was your own fault.'
'My own fault. Yes;--I don't doubt that. I know it was my own fault,
my dear, to have had anything to do with it. And now I have got to
pay for it.'
'What do you mean by paying for it, Julia?'
'You know what I mean very well. Is your friend going to do us the
honour of coming to us to-morrow night?' She could not have declared in
plainer language how very high she thought the price to be which she
had consented to give for those ineffective tickets.
'If you mean Mr Brehgert, he is coming. You desired me to ask him, and
I did so.'
'Desired you! The truth is, Georgiana, when people get into different
sets, they'd better stay where they are. It's no good trying to mix
things.' Lady Monogram was so angry that she could not control her
Miss Longestaffe was ready to tear herself with indignation. That she
should have been brought to hear insolence such as this from Julia
Triplex,--she, the daughter of Adolphus Longestaffe of Caversham and
Lady Pomona; she, who was considered to have lived in quite the first
London circle! But she could hardly get hold of fit words for a reply.
She was almost in tears, and was yet anxious to fight rather than
weep. But she was in her friend's carriage, and was being taken to her
friend's house, was to be entertained by her friend all the next day,
and was to see her lover among her friend's guests. 'I wonder what has
made you so ill-natured,' she said at last. 'You didn't use to be like
'It's no good abusing me,' said Lady Monogram. 'Here we are, and I
suppose we had better get out,--unless you want the carriage to take
you anywhere else.' Then Lady Monogram got out and marched into the
house, and taking a candle went direct to her own room. Miss Longestaffe
followed slowly to her own chamber, and having half undressed herself,
dismissed her maid and prepared to write to her mother.
The letter to her mother must be written. Mr Brehgert had twice
proposed that he should, in the usual way, go to Mr Longestaffe, who
had been backwards and forwards in London, and was there at the
present moment. Of course it was proper that Mr Brehgert should see
her father,--but, as she had told him, she preferred that he should
postpone his visit for a day or two. She was now agonized by many
doubts. Those few words about 'various sets' and the 'mixing of
things' had stabbed her to the very heart,--as had been intended. Mr
Brehgert was rich. That was a certainty. But she already repented of
what she had done. If it were necessary that she should really go down
into another and a much lower world, a world composed altogether of
Brehgerts, Melmottes, and Cohenlupes, would it avail her much to be
the mistress of a gorgeous house? She had known, and understood, and
had revelled in the exclusiveness of county position. Caversham had
been dull, and there had always been there a dearth of young men of
the proper sort; but it had been a place to talk of, and to feel
satisfied with as a home to be acknowledged before the world. Her
mother was dull, and her father pompous and often cross; but they were
in the right set,--miles removed from the Brehgerts and Melmottes,--
until her father himself had suggested to her that she should go to the
house in Grosvenor Square. She would write one letter to-night; but
there was a question in her mind whether the letter should be written
to her mother telling her the horrid truth,--or to Mr Brehgert begging
that the match should be broken off. I think she would have decided on
the latter had it not been that so many people had already heard of
the match. The Monograms knew it, and had of course talked far and
wide. The Melmottes knew it, and she was aware that Lord Nidderdale
had heard it. It was already so far known that it was sure to be
public before the end of the season. Each morning lately she had
feared that a letter from home would call upon her to explain the
meaning of some frightful rumours reaching Caversham, or that her
father would come to her and with horror on his face demand to know
whether it was indeed true that she had given her sanction to so
abominable a report.
And there were other troubles. She had just spoken to Madame Melmotte
this evening, having met her late hostess as she entered the
drawing-room, and had felt from the manner of her reception that she
was not wanted back again. She had told her father that she was going
to transfer herself to the Monograms for a time, not mentioning the
proposed duration of her visit, and Mr Longestaffe, in his ambiguous
way, had expressed himself glad that she was leaving the Melmottes.
She did not think that she could go back to Grosvenor Square, although
Mr Brehgert desired it. Since the expression of Mr Brehgert's wishes
she had perceived that ill-will had grown up between her father and Mr
Melmotte. She must return to Caversham. They could not refuse to take
her in, though she had betrothed herself to a Jew!
If she decided that the story should be told to her mother it would be
easier to tell it by letter than by spoken words, face to face. But
then if she wrote the letter there would be no retreat;--and how should
she face her family after such a declaration? She had always given
herself credit for courage, and now she wondered at her own cowardice.
Even Lady Monogram, her old friend Julia Triplex, had trampled upon
her. Was it not the business of her life, in these days, to do the
best she could for herself, and would she allow paltry considerations
as to the feelings of others to stand in her way and become bugbears
to affright her? Who sent her to Melmotte's house? Was it not her own
father? Then she sat herself square at the table, and wrote to her
mother,--as follows,--dating her letter for the following morning:--
Hill Street, 9th July, 187-.
MY DEAR MAMMA,
I am afraid you will be very much astonished by this letter, and
perhaps disappointed. I have engaged myself to Mr Brehgert, a
member of a very wealthy firm in the City, called Todd,
Brehgert, and Goldsheiner. I may as well tell you the worst at
once. Mr Brehgert is a Jew. [This last word she wrote very
rapidly, but largely, determined that there should be no lack of
courage apparent in the letter.] He is a very wealthy man, and
his business is about banking and what he calls finance. I
understand they are among the most leading people in the City.
He lives at present at a very handsome house at Fulham. I don't
know that I ever saw a place more beautifully fitted up. I have
said nothing to papa, nor has he; but he says he will be willing
to satisfy papa perfectly as to settlements. He has offered to
have a house in London if I like,--and also to keep the villa at
Fulham or else to have a place somewhere in the country. Or I
may have the villa at Fulham and a house in the country. No man
can be more generous than he is. He has been married before, and
has a family, and now I think I have told you all.
I suppose you and papa will be very much dissatisfied. I hope
papa won't refuse his consent. It can do no good. I am not going
to remain as I am now all my life, and there is no use waiting
any longer. It was papa who made me go to the Melmottes, who are
not nearly so well placed as Mr Brehgert. Everybody knows that
Madame Melmotte is a Jewess, and nobody knows what Mr Melmotte
is. It is no good going on with the old thing when everything
seems to be upset and at sixes and sevens. If papa has got to be
so poor that he is obliged to let the house in town, one must of
course expect to be different from what we were.
I hope you won't mind having me back the day after to-morrow,--
that is to-morrow, Wednesday. There is a party here to-night,
and Mr Brehgert is coming. But I can't stay longer with Julia,
who doesn't make herself nice, and I do not at all want to go
back to the Melmottes. I fancy that there is something wrong
between papa and Mr Melmotte.
Send the carriage to meet me by the 2.30 train from London,--and
pray, mamma, don't scold when you see me, or have hysterics, or
anything of that sort. Of course it isn't all nice, but things
have got so that they never will be nice again. I shall tell Mr
Brehgert to go to papa on Wednesday.
Your affectionate daughter,
When the morning came she desired the servant to take the letter away
and have it posted, so that the temptation to stop it might no longer
be in her way.
About one o'clock on that day Mr Longestaffe called at Lady
Monogram's. The two ladies had breakfasted upstairs, and had only just
met in the drawing-room when he came in. Georgiana trembled at first,
but soon perceived that her father had as yet heard nothing of Mr
Brehgert. She immediately told him that she proposed returning home on
the following day. 'I am sick of the Melmottes,' she said.
'And so am I,' said Mr Longestaffe, with a serious countenance.
'We should have been delighted to have had Georgiana to stay with us a
little longer,' said Lady Monogram; 'but we have but the one spare
bedroom, and another friend is coming.' Georgiana, who knew both these
statements to be false, declared that she wouldn't think of such a
thing. 'We have a few friends corning to-night, Mr Longestaffe, and I
hope you'll come in and see Georgiana.' Mr Longestaffe hummed and
hawed and muttered something, as old gentlemen always do when they are
asked to go out to parties after dinner. 'Mr Brehgert will be here,'
continued Lady Monogram with a peculiar smile.
'Mr who?' The name was not at first familiar to Mr Longestaffe.
'Mr Brehgert.' Lady Monogram looked at her friend. 'I hope I'm not
revealing any secret.'
'I don't understand anything about it,' said Mr Longestaffe.
'Georgiana, who is Mr Brehgert?' He had understood very much. He had
been quite certain from Lady Monogram's manner and words, and also
from his daughter's face, that Mr Brehgert was mentioned as an
accepted lover. Lady Monogram had meant that it should be so, and any
father would have understood her tone. As she said afterwards to Sir
Damask, she was not going to have that Jew there at her house as
Georgiana Longestaffe's accepted lover without Mr Longestaffe's
'My dear Georgiana,' she said, 'I supposed your father knew all about
'I know nothing. Georgiana, I hate a mystery. I insist upon knowing.
Who is Mr Brehgert, Lady Monogram?'
'Mr Brehgert is a--very wealthy gentleman. That is all I know of him.
Perhaps, Georgiana, you will be glad to be alone with your father.'
And Lady Monogram left the room.
Was there ever cruelty equal to this! But now the poor girl was forced
to speak,--though she could not speak as boldly as she had written.
'Papa, I wrote to mamma this morning, and Mr Brehgert was to come to
'Do you mean that you are engaged to marry him?'
'What Mr Brehgert is he?'
'He is a merchant.'
'You can't mean the fat Jew whom I've met with Mr Melmotte;--a man old
enough to be your father!' The poor girl's condition now was certainly
lamentable. The fat Jew, old enough to be her father, was the very man
she did mean. She thought that she would try to brazen it out with her
father. But at the present moment she had been so cowed by the manner
in which the subject had been introduced that she did not know how to
begin to be bold. She only looked at him as though imploring him to
spare her. 'Is the man a Jew?' demanded Mr Longestaffe, with as much
thunder as he knew how to throw into his voice.
'Yes, papa,' she said.
'He is that fat man?'
'And nearly as old as I am?'
'No, papa,--not nearly as old as you are. He is fifty.'
'And a Jew?' He again asked the horrid question, and again threw in
the thunder. On this occasion she condescended to make no further
reply. 'If you do, you shall do it as an alien from my house. I
certainly will never see him. Tell him not to come to me, for I
certainly will not speak to him. You are degraded and disgraced; but
you shall not degrade and disgrace me and your mother and sister.'
'It was you, papa, who told me to go to the Melmottes.'
'That is not true. I wanted you to stay at Caversham. A Jew! an old
fat Jew! Heavens and earth! that it should be possible that you should
think of it! You;--my daughter,--that used to take such pride in
yourself! Have you written to your mother?'
'It will kill her. It will simply kill her. And you are going home
'I wrote to say so.'
'And there you must remain. I suppose I had better see the man and
explain to him that it is utterly impossible. Heavens on earth;--a
Jew! An old fat Jew! My daughter! I will take you down home myself
to-morrow. What have I done that I should be punished by my children in
this way?' The poor man had had rather a stormy interview with Dolly
that morning. 'You had better leave this house to-day, and come to my
hotel in Jermyn Street.'
'Oh, papa, I can't do that.'
'Why can't you do it? You can do it, and you shall do it. I will not
have you see him again. I will see him. If you do not promise me to
come, I will send for Lady Monogram and tell her that I will not
permit you to meet Mr Brehgert at her house. I do wonder at her. A
Jew! An old fat Jew!' Mr Longestaffe, putting up both his hands,
walked about the room in despair.
She did consent, knowing that her father and Lady Monogram between
them would be too strong for her. She had her things packed up, and in
the course of the afternoon allowed herself to be carried away. She
said one word to Lady Monogram before she went. 'Tell him that I was
called away suddenly.'
'I will, my dear. I thought your papa would not like it.' The poor
girl had not spirit sufficient to upbraid her friend; nor did it suit
her now to acerbate an enemy. For the moment, at least, she must yield
to everybody and everything. She spent a lonely evening with her
father in a dull sitting-room in the hotel, hardly speaking or spoken
to, and the following day she was taken down to Caversham. She
believed that her father had seen Mr Brehgert in the morning of that
day;--but he said no word to her, nor did she ask him any question.
That was on the day after Lady Monogram's party. Early in the evening,
just as the gentlemen were coming up from the dining-room, Mr
Brehgert, apparelled with much elegance, made his appearance. Lady
Monogram received him with a sweet smile. 'Miss Longestaffe,' she
said, 'has left me and gone to her father.'
'Yes,' said Lady Monogram, bowing her head, and then attending to
other persons as they arrived. Nor did she condescend to speak another
word to Mr Brehgert, or to introduce him even to her husband. He stood
for about ten minutes inside the drawing-room, leaning against the
wall, and then he departed. No one had spoken a word to him. But he
was an even-tempered, good-humoured man. When Miss Longestaffe was his
wife things would no doubt be different;--or else she would probably
change her acquaintance.
CHAPTER LXVI - 'SO SHALL BE MY ENMITY'
'You shall be troubled no more with Winifred Hurtle.' So Mrs Hurtle had
said, speaking in perfect good faith to the man whom she had come to
England with the view of marrying. And then when he had said good-bye
to her, putting out his hand to take hers for the last time, she
declined that. 'Nay,' she had said; 'this parting will bear no
Having left her after that fashion Paul Montague could not return home
with very high spirits. Had she insisted on his taking that letter
with the threat of the horsewhip as the letter which she intended to
write to him,--that letter which she had shown him, owning it to be
the ebullition of her uncontrolled passion, and had then destroyed,--
he might at any rate have consoled himself with thinking that, however
badly he might have behaved, her conduct had been worse than his. He
could have made himself warm and comfortable with anger, and could
have assured himself that under any circumstances he must be right to
escape from the clutches of a wildcat such as that. But at the last
moment she had shown that she was no wild cat to him. She had melted,
and become soft and womanly. In her softness she had been exquisitely
beautiful; and as he returned home he was sad and dissatisfied with
himself. He had destroyed her life for her,--or, at least, had created
a miserable episode in it which could hardly be obliterated. She had
said that she was all alone, and had given up everything to follow
him,--and he had believed her. Was he to do nothing for her now? She
had allowed him to go, and after her fashion had pardoned him the wrong
he had done her. But was that to be sufficient for him,--so that he
might now feel inwardly satisfied at leaving her, and make no further
inquiry as to her fate? Could he pass on and let her be as the wine
that has been drunk,--as the hour that has been enjoyed as the day
that is past?
But what could he do? He had made good his own escape. He had resolved
that, let her be woman or wild cat, he would not marry her, and in
that he knew he had been right. Her antecedents, as now declared by
herself, unfitted her for such a marriage. Were he to return to her he
would be again thrusting his hand into the fire. But his own selfish
coldness was hateful to him when he thought that there was nothing to
be done but to leave her desolate and lonely in Mrs Pipkin's lodgings.
During the next three or four days, while the preparations for the
dinner and the election were going on, he was busy in respect to the
American railway. He again went down to Liverpool, and at Mr
Ramsbottom's advice prepared a letter to the board of directors, in
which he resigned his seat, and gave his reasons for resigning it;
adding that he should reserve to himself the liberty of publishing his
letter, should at any time the circumstances of the railway company
seem to him to make such a course desirable. He also wrote a letter to
Mr Fisker, begging that gentleman to come to England, and expressing
his own wish to retire altogether from the firm of Fisker, Montague,
and Montague upon receiving the balance of money due to him,--a payment
which must, he said, be a matter of small moment to his two partners,
if, as he had been informed, they had enriched themselves by the
success of the railway company in San Francisco. When he wrote these
letters at Liverpool the great rumour about Melmotte had not yet
sprung up. He returned to London on the day of the festival, and first
heard of the report at the Beargarden. There he found that the old set
had for the moment broken itself up. Sir Felix Carbury had not been
heard of for the last four or five days,--and then the whole story of
Miss Melmotte's journey, of which he had read something in the
newspapers, was told to him. 'We think that Carbury has drowned
himself' said Lord Grasslough, 'and I haven't heard of anybody being
heartbroken about it.' Lord Nidderdale had hardly been seen at the
club. 'He's taken up the running with the girl,' said Lord Grasslough.
'What he'll do now, nobody knows. If I was at it, I'd have the money
down in hard cash before I went into the church. He was there at the
party yesterday, talking to the girl all the night;--a sort of thing
he never did before. Nidderdale is the best fellow going, but he was
always an ass.' Nor had Miles Grendall been seen in the club for three
days. 'We've got into a way of play the poor fellow doesn't like,'
said Lord Grasslough; 'and then Melmotte won't let him out of his
sight. He has taken to dine there every day.' This was said during the
election,--on the very day on which Miles deserted his patron; and on
that evening he did dine at the club. Paul Montague also dined there,
and would fain have heard something from Grendall as to Melmotte's
condition; but the secretary, if not faithful in all things, was
faithful at any rate in his silence. Though Grasslough talked openly
enough about Melmotte in the smoking-room Miles Grendall said never a
On the next day, early in the afternoon, almost without a fixed
purpose, Montague strolled up to Welbeck Street, and found Hetta
alone. 'Mamma has gone to her publisher's,' she said. 'She is writing
so much now that she is always going there. Who has been elected, Mr
Montague?' Paul knew nothing about the election, and cared very
little. At that time, however, the election had not been decided. 'I
suppose it will make no difference to you whether your chairman be in
Parliament or not?' Paul said that Melmotte was no longer a chairman
of his. 'Are you out of it altogether, Mr Montague?' Yes;--as far as
it lay within his power to be out of it, he was out of it. He did not
like Mr Melmotte, nor believe in him. Then with considerable warmth he
repudiated all connection with the Melmotte party, expressing deep
regret that circumstances had driven him for a time into that
alliance. 'Then you think that Mr Melmotte is--?'
'Just a scoundrel;--that's all.'
'You heard about Felix?'